February 9, 2012
Israel public sector strike headed for third day
Israel’s banks, ports and stock market were closed in the second day of a general strike on Thursday that threatened to drag on for another 24 hours after negotiations between unions and government hit new obstacles.
The strike called by the Histadrut labor federation, an umbrella organization for hundreds of thousands of public sector workers, also halted trains and closed Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv for more than an hour.
The Treasury estimated economic damages from the strike as totaling as much as $500 million a day.
Histadrut wants the government to hire about 250,000 contract workers, such as cleaners and security guards, saying their employment conditions are inferior to workers directly on the public payroll.
The Finance Ministry said it cannot take on that many new workers but has offered to improve conditions by raising salaries by at least 20 percent and giving them more holiday.
Talks, which many hoped would settle the dispute, hit problems on Thursday afternoon when the union said Treasury negotiators asked it not to strike again for another four years.
“There is not a chance I would agree to that,” Histadrut Chairman Ofer Eini told Israel’s Channel 10 television.
Eini said the strike may stretch into Friday, when most government offices are normally shut. Israel’s air and seaports would operate normally, Israel Radio said.
Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Andrew Heavens